“Mom, dad… I think I might be gay.”
I watch as the butter knife slips from my ever-graceful mother’s hold and clatters loudly onto the plate. A horrified expression is evident on her face. Next to her, my father scrunches up the newspaper in his hand as he chokes on his morning coffee, black drops staining the brown tablecloth. I hope it will wash out.
My parents are shocked. Understandable. I sit straight and remain still, waiting for their next reaction.
As my father tries to contend his coughing, my mother slowly sets down the slice of bread in her hand, her ruby eyes trained on me. It feels as if my own gaze is scrutinizing me, asking me if I know what I’m saying.
“… What… makes you say that?” father finally voices the question after clearing his throat several times.
“Yes, are you sure, honey?” mother adds. “Don’t you think it’s still a bit early to tell?”
The air is thick with almost palpable tension as they try to gauge their fifteen-year-old daughter. Worry is written all over their countenances. I swallow, keeping myself from squirming in my chair. Closing my eyes and taking a sip of my lemon juice, I lamely manage with a straight face, “It was a joke.”
They both sit back into their seats and let out sighs of relief. I, too, relaxed my tensed shoulders.
Normally, when kids my age spout this level of absurdity, it will most likely be treated as a bad joke – not that I know normal. Because of my deadpan face, my jokes never get through. In this case, though, it’s a good thing.
“That wasn’t funny, young lady,” mother exhales in her gentle chiding tone, a small smile gracing her features. She gives a shake of her head and promptly picks up her knife to resume spreading father’s toast.
“I guess… A for effort,” father mutters. His smiling face is convincing enough, but I can tell he’s still shaken.
Unfortunately, mother was right. It wasn’t funny- wasn’t meant to be, because it wasn’t a joke. Anticipating their reaction has unnerved me to the point that I ended up going back on my decision. I hope it’s not showing on my face, at least, not too obviously. If there’s someone who can read me, it’s my parents. However, I think the nature of the topic is keeping them from dwelling in too deep.
I have prepared all night for this talk, but the gamut of scenarios that I’ve accounted for apparently hasn’t kept me from getting cold feet. Morning wasn’t the best time I could have chosen – the awkward being that I am is still not ready for communication. It’s not everyday occurrence that I say any more than ‘Morning’ and ‘Thank you’ on my own during breakfast, and, to be fair, it’s definitely not everyday occurrence that a catatonic teenage girl proclaims to be gay during breakfast.
Forking one of the delightfully red cherry tomatoes on my plate, I brought it to my mouth. My gaze hidden behind my thick mahogany bang, I surreptitiously glance up at my parents. I was planning to get some advice from them, but now there is no way for that.
A shallow sigh escapes my nose.
My problem is, I think I’m a lesbian. It’s ‘think’ because I’ve never really thought about love until just recently. I do think it’s a bit early to tell, but… girls just interest me somehow. Boys are just… boys. They’re too rough. They’re just not… girly. While girls… they’re gentle, sensitive. I haven’t found any boys attractive, but I have found myself staring at several girls on occasions. I don’t know how to appeal to boys, nor do I want to. If I wanted attention, it’d be from a girl. In a way, femininity fascinates me. Maybe because I can’t be like other girls, and by rule of opposites attract, I’m just unconsciously looking for a girl to fill that hole for me.
Suddenly a sinking feeling wells up inside my heart as I absently chew. From time to time, I would feel empty for no apparent reason, as if there was something important missing while I should be holding it near. Maybe not though. My friends told me that I might be yearning for love more than I am aware. I don’t think it’s like that. Maybe it’s just my detached emotions giving way for my imagination to blow things out of proportion.
My favorite milk-butter omelet is almost tasteless on my tongue.
“Ibbypoo, let’s go somewhere after school~ I want to forget my sorrow,” says Cheryl, a girl with shoulder length blond hair and my friend, as she leans and clings onto my shoulder.
I look to Sheila, my other friend. She has naturally tanned skin, which greatly diminishes her beautiful black hair that she ties into a ponytail. Sitting cross-legged in her chair, Sheila only shrugs before continuing with painting her fingernails a pearl pink. “Sorry, hon, I’m also pretty sore,” the girl smiles at me brightly.
Politely smiling back is all I can offer. She’s mad that she was only one percent away from a B. Me? I got a C, which is pretty good considering I’ve completely given up on Math. Cheryl, however, got a D, and her parents are very strict. Poor girl.
So I have friends. It wasn’t intentional, but us three just kind of got together. During eight grade, I was just being my lonesome self and wandering the schoolyard when I randomly focused onto the sound of someone speaking amongst the rowdy vicinity. I easily located the tall, dark-skinned girl standing to the side. Sheila was talking to her friends. We were actually classmates, but I had never really paid much attention to her. There was just something in the way she talked that completely caught my interest then. She has always had this stubborn, nonchalant attitude, but her way of speaking is really soothing to the ear- for me at least. My gaze unconsciously followed her that year, and when I finally realized that I was staring, Sheila was already walking towards me demanding an explanation.
My encounter with Cheryl was a little bit before that, where I simply helped her get rid of a bug perching atop her blond head. She was quite well-known in my grade as friendly and cute. That afternoon, she was scared stiff by the unnamed insect that had taken a liking to her hair. I was also intimidated by how big it was, but still managed to shoo the atrocity away. Cheryl started hanging around me after that, and she’s really big on hugs. I just can’t find the heart to leave the affectionate little thing that she is alone.
“Alright… how about the haunted house in the-”
“No!” Cheryl interrupts me with a big pout, hitting the edge of her table. “Do you intend to go to every single haunted house in town? You’re not even scared!”
“Why do you like haunted houses so much anyway?” Sheila asks as she blows at her nails.
I just stay silent. Not because I don’t have an answer, but because…
“Eeeeeeekk!” Cheryl shrieks at the top of her lungs in the face of one of the horror props and hides behind me.
We went with what I suggested in the end. Cheryl is terrible with horror, which begs the question as to why she follows me to every haunted house or horror flick I choose. But I’m not complaining. Standing at the exit of the attraction, I pat the blonde’s back as she hugs me close. I can feel her heartbeat thumping against my chest. Cheryl is the same size as me, only a tad shorter. However, when she’s like this, it feels like she’s the most fragile thing in the universe that I need to protect. This is the reason why I like going to scary places: to see Cheryl scared and comfort her. It’s a bit warped, but I’ve established that I was never normal to begin with.
“Is the sweetheart all better now?” Sheila’s voice says to my right as she approaches us with our drinks. She’s not looking too hot herself, but it seems she’s determined to keep up her unflappable act.
“Uuu, I should have gone home and received my parents’ wrath…” Cheryl whimpers in reply. “I’m not gonna drink any water tonight.”
“Or you can just bring these bottles to your room.”
“Ew, Sheila. Ew,” the blonde makes a face.
“It’s an option. Whatever floats your boat, hon.” Sheila shrugs offhandedly before ruffling my hair. “And you, pumpkin pie, stop making us go to these places.”
Ah, I really like being close like this with them. I really might just be homosexual after all. When Cheryl asked me which type of boys I liked few months back, I couldn’t answer her. It was then that I realized the characteristics I preferred could only be found in girls. I like how gentle and lovely they are, how they get scared so easily, yet pretend not to be.
Walking alone on the pavement as I made my way home under the late afternoon sun, I regret having dismissed my family’s driver. My bang is sticking to my forehead and my uniform is beginning to feel icky. I raise my hand to wipe away a drop of sweat rolling down the side of my face. The lemon juice Sheila bought for me is long gone, and I really want something to drink. I’ll take a detour to the nearby café then.
I really don’t like separating ways with Sheila and Cheryl. Every time I do, I feel empty. I like spending time with them. Maybe I have a crush on them. But… two at the same time? They have the traits that I like though. Cheryl is sweet, caring and compassionate, with a dab of hotheadedness. Her tendency to overact is cute and fun to watch. She’s too open, though. I would like a slightly more mysterious air, like Sheila. She has a nice lean body, almost a model figure with her height. Her unguent voice is also nice. However, Sheila’s a bit fierce. A little more yielding and easygoing would be nice. She’s also too down-to-earth. Someone with colored hair and a peculiar fashion sense can be fun. Smoking is cool, too. Hm? Are preferences supposed to be this specific?
The sinking feeling is intensifying inside me, and it’s becoming rather frustrating. I ignore it and turn around the corner. The café is within view now.
Hm? If I think about it, the girls are too… small? Hugging my bag, I absently cross the street together with other pedestrians.
Cheryl is far too petite, and Sheila is not… gaunt… enough. Hm? Like male kind of gaunt? Wait, I thought I like feminine traits. No, I do, but…
So… guys are not girly enough for me, and girls are not… manly enough? Hm-
I slam straight into someone and stagger backward. I think I can smell cigarette and cologne, and hear something metal clinking on the cement below.
“My, are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there, little miss,” the person gently asks.
Addlepated, I search the ground for the object as my mouth mutter apologies to them. “No, no. I’m at fault. I wasn’t looking.” My eyes lock onto a silver lighter just next to my foot and I hastily grab it. “This is yours right? I’m very sorry, miss-” The word trails off in my throat as I finally take a good look at the tall figure before me. “… ter.” I quickly add.
“Don’t worry about it,” the man says, his tone instantly reminding me of Sheila.
A lean yet gaunt frame.
Standing before me is a man, and he is tall. His rangy body, cloaked in a frayed dark coat despite the hot weather, towers over me. I can barely stand to his chest and have to tilt my head to meet his eyes. His eyes are so blue – not electrifying or anything fancy like that, but just blue.
Peculiar fashion senses.
His wind-tousled hair is dyed a chatoyant purple, save for a few black locks staining the top of his head.
One that smokes.
I place the lighter into his hand, which is very beautiful for a man, if I might say.
“Thank you,” he smiles. Familiarity washes over me, but it feels far too nostalgic to be possible. Who is this man?
“… No problem,” I manage, not betraying any emotion on my face.
There is something different about this man – the feminine ring to his tone and odd aesthetic aside, he’s just different. He… intrigues me. No, more than that, he makes me feel like I’m closer to the answer than I ever have.
“Has anyone ever told you that your eyes are beautiful?” the man suddenly asks, smiling down at me. He doesn’t step away, and I don’t either, in spite of the nature of his question. I don’t think what’s being started here is healthy.
“No,” I answer icily.
“… Well, they are,” he appears stumped for a moment, but quickly amends. “Sorry, I don’t know why I’m blurting these things out, but I think red roses suit you.”
“Are you trying to pick me up?” is my impassive response.
“Funny, I was under the impression that you were checking me out,” he gives me a good-natured smirk, hands stuffing his coat pockets.
I bite the inside of my lips and avert my gaze downward. I was staring again, wasn’t I? I really need to get rid of this habit.
“Are you perchance getting a drink here?” out of the corner of my eyes, I can see him gesturing to his left. It seems we have been standing in front of the café all this time.
“… Not with a stranger, no.”
He chuckles, then places a hand to his chest. “Garry.”
Oldest trick in the book. But strange…
“And I like macarons.” He remains unfazed. “You know, these little hamburger-shaped pastries? They’re really good.”
I feel like I can trust him. I really don’t care how old he is, and it’s actually great that he doesn’t mind a dull kid like me.
Allowing a small smile onto my lips, I point to myself. “Ib.” He goes silent for a second. “Strange name, I know.”
“… No, no. I can’t think of a name more befitting you. It’s very unique.”
Unique, strange – same difference. But I’m not going to lie, I’m glad he likes it.
And later I realize… I have been searching only for you.
“Mom, dad… can stay over at my boyfriend’s tonight?”
I watch as the butter knife slipped from my ever-graceful mother’s hold and clatter loudly onto the plate. A horrified expression is evident on her face. Next to her, my father scrunches up the newspaper in his hand as he chokes on his morning coffee, black drops staining the moss green tablecloth. I know it’s not going to wash out.
Closing my eyes and taking a sip of my lemon juice, I lamely manage with a straight face, “It was a joke. I just want to sleep at Sheila’s.”
My parents relax.
“That wasn’t funny, young lady,” mother doesn’t look too happy. And father is silent.
I guess eighteen is still not old enough.
It might be a while until I can admit to them that my boyfriend is eleven years my senior.
- Ib wasn’t supposed to get cold feet. She was supposed to be older. She also was supposed to seriously discuss the issue of her gender with her parents, and receive their understanding afterwards. Author threw all that down the drain after a few minutes of writing.
- Ib’s friends were created on the spot so that she could think about her preferences. They were never meant to have actual screen time.